Saturday, January 22, 2011

Birthday Celebrations ... and Unconditional Love

Today is Duane’s 28th birthday, and I’ve been thinking about his birthday celebrations over the years.  Our family always celebrated our boys' birthdays with parties every year.

When he was little, we had birthday parties at home and had his little friends come to play and enjoy cake and ice cream. Just look at those adorable faces!

When he got older, we gathered all the friends at a place like “Fun & Games” in Honesdale to eat pizza, play miniature golf and all the other games of skill and luck that kids enjoy. That’s where his 13th birthday party was.  Looks like this was an all-guy party.  Check out that hat Duane is wearing!

By the time we were celebrating his 16th birthday, his favorite place to eat was Red Lobster, so that’s where we decided to go that year.

Duane always loved “pushing the envelope.” You know, he liked to explore his boundaries and see just how far he could go. He was very creative in the ways he did it. That should have never surprised me; after all, he was just born naturally creative!

I don’t remember how old he was when he started wanting to wear black nail polish. I thought that was just horrible. Evil. Nasty. Yuck. Demonic, even! (I’ve come a long way, Baby! I even wear it on occasion myself.) I would forbid him to leave the house “like that,” and he would obediently remove it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he borrowed some from a friend after he got away from the house, though.

He wanted to die his hair pink. I said No, but I let him go blonde. In fact, I was probably the one who colored it for him. I actually liked the way it looked.

He wanted body piercings. He wasn’t the first of our sons to want his ears pierced, and I had come to the point where I realized this was just the fashion, so that was okay. But when he expressed the desire to have his tongue pierced, I said something like, “Over my dead body!” His father’s reaction would probably have been even more expressive.

So, his 16th birthday came and we went to celebrate at Red Lobster. Mike and I were sitting on one side of the table, and Duane (now blonde) and his friend were on the other side. At some point about mid-way through the meal, Duane was talking, and I noticed something shiny in the middle of his tongue. I was furious! But what could I do?? There we were, enjoying a lobster dinner, celebrating his birthday. I couldn’t very well throw a “Mama hissy fit!” But I think I did utter something like, “What is that on your tongue?” through my teeth, while maintaining a look of civility on my face. I’m not sure how the rest of dinner went, or how long it took me to cool off, but I don’t think it was too long. After all, when a two or three-year-old is willfully disobedient, you can spank their butt or give them time out, but when the child is 16 and working, making his own money, what are you supposed to do? By that age, you have taught them just about all you can teach them; by the age of seven, their personalities and wills are pretty much shaped. As they have grown older, you have been giving them more and more responsibility, hopefully getting them ready to go on their own, and Duane was close to that point by the time he was 16. I might have grounded him from doing something, but he would always do his very best to talk me out of it, sometimes successfully.

No matter what our kids did that was against our rules or wishes, and despite the fact that we had to try to administer age-appropriate discipline, we always loved them unconditionally. When the discipline was over, we would continue to do our utmost to meet their needs, and their wants too. There was nothing they could have done wrong that would have made us love them less. And there was no way they could have performed to make us love them more.  We were not perfect parents; we made mistakes.  So I don’t know if we always did a good job of letting them know how much we loved them, but we did.

God is our Heavenly Father, and He is perfect.  Although He disciplines us when we “push the envelope,” or downright break the rules, His love is unconditional. Sometimes we have the idea that God is angry and is just watching for us to do something wrong. Some people think that His discipline includes giving us sickness or causing bad things to happen. God is love, and love does not do that. If Mike and I had the ability, would we have caused something bad to happen to our sons when they disobeyed? Of course not!

If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing. You're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?  Matthew 7:9-11, The Message

God’s discipline often consists simply of allowing us to reap the consequences of our actions. For instance, God says we are to love people. If we are trying to follow Him, we will have a guilty conscience when we’ve been unkind to someone. Then we have to apologize, and that hurts our pride. He says we are to obey the laws of the land. So, we might get a speeding ticket when our lead foot gets the best of us. We have to pay the fine and there goes some money that could have been spent on something we wanted. He wants us to take care of our bodies, and bad food choices can result in poor health. We learn by our mistakes and grow in maturity and obedience, just as our children did.

But no matter what we do or don’t do, God loves us outrageously, extravagantly, unconditionally, and that will never change.

How would our lives change if we really believed that?

God told them, "I've never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!”
Jeremiah 31:3, The Message

I'm absolutely convinced that nothing - nothing living or dead,
angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low,
thinkable or unthinkable - absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Romans 8:39, The Message

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christmas Memories 1983.....

What an interesting date today is. 1/1/11. You really think of “new beginnings” when you look at today’s date, don’t you? Hmmmm.  It has been over a month since I posted anything. I’ve thought several times of posting different things - I even started once, using a Christmas card that Duane made when he was five. I started writing about the importance and meaning of Christmas cards, but somehow that never gelled, never came together. It seems that I need a new beginning, a new start to this blogging thing. Since I subtitled it “Memories from the life of Duane David DuBois…” I decided to simply share photos of Duane’s first Christmas with you. No big lesson, no big revelation, no life-changing wisdom today - just memories.

Just look at Duane, that little bundle of joy,
sitting beneath the Christmas tree.
This was taken a few days before Christmas in 1983.
Duane was just about eleven months old.

And here he is a day or two later.  If you look closely,
you will see some foil "icicles" hanging from his mouth!

Our cat Sam had fun playing with those icicles too.
He was my favorite-ever cat.  He was half Siamese.

This was probably taken Christmas morning, before the kids got into their presents.  The tree was a humble little artificial one.  You could buy real trees in Midland, Texas, but they would have been cut too long to be fresh, shipped in and way over-priced!


I don't think we ever bought official Christmas stockings for the boys.  Instead, we stuffed one of Mike's biggest socks with things - little wrapped gifts, fruit, and nuts.  Duane is taking his banana out of his stocking here.

Here's Chris, opening new camo gear, it looks like. 
His brand new sleeping bag is there beside him, too.

Mike with his new binoculars.

Aren't the boxes always one of the most fun things to play with?

Things are looking pretty messy - must be near the end of the gifts!

Chris with his new bow.

And finally one with me, the photographer!
I think the little crocheted fellow is from Aunt Sally.

So there you have it - Christmas 1983, 1505 West Kentucky Ave., Midland, TX.
Mike's memory is that we went out for Christmas dinner.  I think he's right.

(If these photos don't appear in the right order, it's not because I didn't try!  I looked at the preview - it looked perfect, but when I published it, the pictures went out of order and some of the captions were way at the bottom.  Maybe this forum is more for writing than posting photos.)

Darren and his new bow and arrow set.

One of my traditions was always to take a picture of the three boys
before they opened any presents. 
 They still look pretty sleepy at this point!